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Beckman Kicks Off Calvin Conference
February 10, 2006

"You have come from all over the nation because you care about what's going on all over the globe."

With those words Calvin College vice president for student life Shirley Hoogstra kicked off the first Faith and International Development Conference, held at Calvin February 9-11.

She continued: "You had a lot of options about how to spend your Thursday, Friday and Saturday. You have made the right choice… . Welcome to Calvin College."

The conference began at 7 p.m. on Thursday, February 9 with an address by David Beckman, president of bread for the World. Beckman assured the 350-plus people in the Gezon Auditorium at Calvin: "I'll talk about Bono, but more about the Bible."

International development is not a technical matter, Beckman said but a living experience of God in our time.

He lauded the pledge to halve global poverty and hunger by 2015 - one of eight U.N. Millennium Development Goals -describing that effort as a miraculous work of God.

"We should see this as Exodus happening in our midst," he said.

Beckman noted that that the Bible is shot through with injunctions - from Moses and the prophets and from Jesus - to care for the destitute, and that those injunctions are being heard around the globe.

"There is a surge of concern and activism about global poverty," he said.

He commended the high-profile leadership of Bono on issues of international development, calling the U2 front man "a very unlikely prophet" for our time.

"I don't know of another prophet who wears sunglasses," Beckman joked.

Bono, he said, has been especially effective in mobilizing leaders like Bill Gates and celebrities like Brad Pitt to the battle against poverty and hunger.

"I didn't even know who Brad Pitt was," Beckman confessed. "I put it on my list of things to do - find out who Brad Pitt is -when he signed up for the One Campaign."

But Beckman confessed himself more heartened by the non-luminaries, particularly the recent rally of evangelicals and persons aged 20-ish, to the anti-poverty, anti-hunger cause.

"What really encourages me is not Brad Pitt or Bono," he said. "Brad Pitt could be on to something else in a couple of years . . . What really encourages me is people like you."

Beckman concluded his address with a call to action, asking the assembled to join the One Campaign, to write their legislators about issues of global poverty and hunger.

The fight against global poverty and hunger, Beckman said, is closely allied to evangelism.

"If Christians in this country are really involved with poor people around the world, we'll be a lot more credible when we say God loves everyone."

And, he said, the fight for justice brings Christians into a livelier experience with God.

"I think most importantly, this is evangelism for us," he said.

Conference attendees, who were heading to a worship service and a screening of City of God after Beckman's talk, were pleased with the conference's first session.

"I enjoyed it a lot. It was awesome," said Brandon Kightlinger, 20, from Taylor University, who is interested in international missions and wants to work with orphans. "I've never heard of any of the speakers, so I'm excited about who I'm going to hear tonight."

Steve Bakker, a former Calvin student whose nametag indicated he was from the "Pamoja Robot School," was impressed with Beckman.

"I don't think I've ever been as encouraged hearing a speaker talk about these things," he said.

Conference organizer Jackie Biltz confessed herself simply impressed.

"I'm in a daze," she said, "and I can't stop thinking about how good God is."

Biltz, who created the Faith and International Development with 2004 Calvin graduate David Beversluis and students from the Health and International Development club, is overwhelmed that the attendance goals for the event were not only met, but surpassed.

"I'm excited for the feedback we're going to get. This is planting seeds that you may never see grow," she said.

~written by media relations staff writer Myrna Anderson